Live With an Outward Focus

Parents, teachers, and mentors alike, this is a great message to share with the young people in your life. I encourage you to start a conversation with them and talk about how they can focus on others.

Follow your passion. March to the beat of your own drum. Pursue your dreams. Find yourself.

Sound familiar?  It should. The message is everywhere these days.  And it sounds great, doesn’t it, to encourage young people to discover themselves and follow their dreams? We do it all the time (me included).

But isn’t it also paradoxical that, at the very time young people are heading off into the world to become part of a college community, part of a business or organization, part of a marriage someday … they are hearing it’s all about them? No wonder colleges and employers are complaining about the entitlement mentality in today’s incoming students and employees!

Are our teens getting the wrong message from our “it’s all about me” culture?

Maybe it’s time we pay attention to combining that message with a healthy dose of other-centeredness.

In reality, the most successful individuals are those who have realized that a successful life is not all about them.  In fact, most people who have achieved a full measure of success (i.e., in their personal life as well as their professional life) will tell you the best things are found not in what they have gained for themselves, but in what they have given to others.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could all learn this sooner rather than later?

The first half of one’s adult life can be aptly called the “accumulation stage” and the second half is the “distribution stage.” During the accumulation stage, you are in “gathering mode,” filling your  bushel basket with life’s needs and wants. In some ways, it might feel like it’s all about YOU. You build a career, buy and furnish a house, start a family, save for retirement, and buy lots of things along the way.

Then, one day, usually around 50 when the kids have left the nest and you have all the toys you need, you become more motivated to give back. You discover that the joy of giving is greater than the joy of receiving, and your perspective changes dramatically. You realize it never was about YOU. I’m a typical case—it happened to me around 49! My life is so much more focused now on others than it was when I was a young person, and I doubt I’m an exception.

When I left my dream 28-year career in investment management to teach finance and life skills to young people, I had no idea it would lead to a total career change to that of author, publisher, mentor, and speaker. But, oh, the fulfillment of being able to direct my life toward others on a regular basis.

Had I known this earlier, I would have sought more balance in my accumulation stage and started my distribution stage sooner. The joy and satisfaction that comes from giving our time, talent, and treasure so outweighs the fun of accumulating that I regret not starting this process earlier.

Where are you directing your life right now—toward self or toward others?  Give it some thought. By shifting your focus toward others, you’ll receive far more in return than you give. Your life will have more balance, your spirit will soar, you’ll make new friends, and you’ll maximize the impact of your life. Oh, and you’ll also make the world a better place in the meantime! What’s not to love about that?

How differently do you feel when you give versus when you receive? Which will have more lasting impact? How have you impressed this principle on the young people in your life? Share your ideas and stories with us by commenting below; we’d love to hear from you!

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